Indie music has grown to include so much. It’s not just music that is released on independent labels, but speaks to an aesthetic that deviates from the norm and follows its own weirdo heart. It can come in the form of rock music, pop, or folk. In a sense, it says as much about the people that are drawn to it as it does about the people that make it.
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Nothing / Full Of Hell – When No Birds Sang
Full Of Hell and Nothing both create brutally heavy music, but they take it in vastly different directions; the former adopting ferocious grindcore and the latter favoring shoegaze. On When No Birds Sang, the two bands’ approaches coalesce. Nothing and Full Of Hell meet somewhere in the middle, but it never feels like a compromise so much as a union of brilliant artists. All you can hope is that this isn’t a one-off collaboration.
Real Lies – Sinking Suburb
Real Lies are one of UK club’s best-kept secrets. Last year, they released Lad Ash, a stalwart album that paired rattling, bass-heavy grooves and ruminative, poignant vocals. Sinking Suburb, a three-track EP that includes the previously shared “Shirley Road,” plays like a DLC pack to an already wonderful video game. Even then, Sinking Suburb unearths a new side of the duo; “Shadowlands” is built on a spoken-word piece over lush synth pads, and “I Remember High Streets” is a full-throttle house banger. The duo’s latest EP, simply put, is another reason why Real Lies need more time in the limelight.
Future Islands – “The Fight”
Ahead of their new album People Who Aren’t There Anymore, Future Islands have churned out catchy, upbeat singles at a dizzying pace. The latest in that line, “The Fight,” considerably dials back the volume and tempo. It’s a glossy ballad that adorns frontman Samuel T. Herring’s powerful voice with triumphant, thunderous drums and opulent synthesizer chords. For a band that invariably delivers energetic, four-on-the-floor synth-pop tunes, the Baltimore group reminds us that they’re more than adept at slowing the pace while preserving their new-wave flair.
MGMT – “Bubblegum Dog”
Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser have always reveled in confusing their fanbase. From the rejection of fame on their second album Congratulations to writing a song about working out, MGMT have never been easy to pin down. But that’s a key part of their charm. “Bubblegum Dog,” the duo’s latest preview of the forthcoming Loss Of Life, maintains that playful eccentricity. What even is a bubblegum dog, anyway? Why are they banging their heads against the gong? Why are they tinkling on the lawn? “Bubblegum Dog” raises many questions, and part of the fun with MGMT is making sense of the insensible.
Militarie Gun / Bully – “Never F*cked Up Twice”
Hardcore is having a moment. One of its primary torchbearers is Ian Shelton, the person behind Militarie Gun who has virtually become the subgenre’s hypeman writ large. Alongside championing and collaborating with newer artists like Dazy and MSPAINT, Shelton is busy creating his own strand of hardcore that blends power-pop, pop-punk, and lo-fi post-punk. His debut album as Militarie Gun, Life Under The Gun, was less like a rite of passage and more like a long-awaited talisman. Now, Shelton has shared new versions of two songs from that album, “Very High” and “Never F*cked Up Once.” The latter, reworked as “Never F*cked Up Twice,” is a mellow duet with Bully’s Alicia Bognanno. Instead of his trademark bark, Shelton’s delivery is strangely soothing. For a man now at the forefront of hardcore, it’s a pleasant surprise to hear his songs in a completely unexpected context.
Real Estate – “Water Underground”
One of indie-rock’s quintessential 2010s bands is back in action. On the cusp of their sixth studio album, Daniel, the New Jersey quintet has shared “Water Underground,” its lead single. Frontman Martin Courtney said in a press statement that it’s “a song about writing songs,” exploring the subconscious element of making music, where listening to your instinct is just as vital as making a concerted effort to develop new ideas. Daniel, funnily enough, was recorded with Daniel Tashian, known for his songwriting and production work on Kacey Musgraves’ previous two records. If “Water Underground” is any indication, then February is destined to be a welcome return from Real Estate.
Katy Kirby – “Party Of The Century”
Singer-songwriter Katy Kirby is set to release an early highlight of 2024 with her new album, Blue Raspberry. Following singles “Table” and “Cubic Zirconia” is the lovely, swooning “Party Of The Century.” Kirby wrote its lyrics over FaceTime with Anti- labelmate Christian Lee Hutson, and it’s a gorgeous meditation on the impermanence of everything around us. “Baby, you’re a time-bound entity / Event, like me / And we’re the party of the century,” Kirby sings, as feathery, warm strings and acoustic guitar accompany her. It may be a quiet tune, but it also delivers on its namesake. Blue Raspberry couldn’t get here any sooner; it’s going to be the party of the century indeed.
The Jesus And Mary Chain – “Jamcod”
2024 will mark the 40th anniversary of seminal alt-rock legends The Jesus And Mary Chain, the duo comprising brothers William and Jim Reid. So, let the festivities commence. Alongside an autobiography, the Scottish icons will release a new album, Glasgow Eyes, this March. “Jamcod,” the first taste the JAMC have given us, is proof that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel; you can keep doing what you’re doing, as long as it’s done remarkably well. And given the magnitude of goth/new-wave/post-punk nostalgia the music industry is undergoing right now, you can’t celebrate the genre without one of its premier bands.
Snõõper – “Company Car”
Recent Third Man Records signees Snõõper released one of the best punk albums of the year. At just under 23 minutes, Super Snõõper traversed through fiery egg punk, garage rock, and chaotic, fun performance art. Just watch some footage of their live shows, in which vocalist Blair Tramel uses campy stage props like absurdly large dumbbells, gargantuan Magic 8 Balls, and dadaist puppetry. “Company Car,” Snõõper’s new single, is a two-minute shot of adrenaline, filled with thrashing guitar riffs and power-pop vocals that’d feel right at home on Super Snõõper.
Grandaddy — “Cabin In My Mind”
Jason Lytle, the indie rock vet behind Grandaddy, is about to release his latest record, Blu Wav. Lytle has previously said that this album contains plenty of pedal steel, which highlights a new side of his music. Well, that trend continues on the second single he has shared, “Cabin In My Mind.” Lyrically, Lytle says that it stems from the notion of an actual cabin in your mind, a place where you can shut off your senses and recharge. Just like the concept that inspired it, “Cabin In My Mind” is restorative and peaceful with its 6/8 sway and twangy guitars.